By George Dudziec, PT, DPT
Hammer toe usually occurs in your second, third and fourth toes (middle three toes). Hammertoe is an excessive bend in the middle joint of a specific toe.
Footwear & shoes come in many forms today. There are positives and negatives about all types of footwear, but the big concern comes when foot deformities or pain starts. Hammertoe and mallet toe are possible deformities that can come from ill-fitting footwear.
What is the Main Cause of Hammer Toe?
Top causes are usually a crowded “toe box”, or poor fitting shoe, stubbing of the toes followed by poor healing, or an imbalance in the muscles of the toe. Bunions of the “big toe” can put the next toe at risk of developing hammertoe. It is more common in women, as they prefer to wear narrow, tight, or smaller shoes. High-heels or elevated-heel shoes will increase the risk for hammer toe.
How do You Fix a Hammer Toe?
Prevention is key, so avoid the above mentioned scenarios. If it is a confirmed hammer toe, then get relief right away by getting shoes with a wide “toe box”, open-toe shoes, or getting a custom shoe or insert. Splinting or using medical tape to bind the affected toe to another toe can also offer temporary relief. Our ankle & foot specialty physicians can examine the deformity & evaluate x-rays to grade the severity of it.
How Can I Straighten my Hammer Toes Naturally?
If surgery is not suggested, then improving the mobility of the hammertoe and surrounding toes may help. This can be done by stretching the toes directly, as below, and addressing other existing mobility issues at the foot or ankle. Perform these stretches twice daily for around 2 weeks, and schedule a consultation with our specialists if there is no improvement.
Stretches for Hammer Toe
1) Toe extension: Put you affected foot up on your other thigh. With either hand, pull back all toes (except the biggest toe) & hold for 30 seconds. Repeated that for 3 repetitions in the morning & 3 repetitions at night.
2) Toe flexion: Put you affected foot up on your other thigh. With either hand, pull all toes down (except the biggest toe) & hold for 30 seconds. Repeated that for 3 repetitions in the morning & 3 repetitions at night.
If there is no improvement in 2 weeks, schedule a consult with an ankle or foot specialist to address any deformities before it becomes permanent. If you are unable to walk on the foot for more than a few steps, then it is very important to have a qualified clinician or doctor rule out any other possible causes. Physical therapy can be a great option to customize an exercise or mobility program to keep such issues at bay.
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